Mele Kalikimaka! Hawaii, Christmas 1944

Mele Kalikimaka! Christmas in Hawaii, 1944.
Mele Kalikimaka! Christmas in Hawaii, 1944. 

This cheekily written “letter” to the folks back home painted a relaxed and happy picture of what Christmas would look like for the men stationed in Hawaii over the Christmas of 1944. The writer is unknown, but given its original owner, it may have originated somewhere within the Tenth Army Headquarters. 

Below, the letter is transcribed as written.

Mele Kalilimaka!

It may not sound like Merry Christmas to you – but it is in the language of old Hawaii. In no language, I am sure, does the age-old greeting “Merry Christmas” carry a deeper and more sincere meaning. From Hawaii, “Mele Kalikimaka” comes from the very bottom of my heart across the Pacific to you. 

Rumor has it that Santa Claus got himself hung up on some of our barbed-wire defenses. It could be, too, because we surely have plenty of it around the island. But we’re not worrying, Santa will reach Hawaii by Christmas Day. He’s never failed yet! He may have to discard those red flannels of his and appear in one of those swishy grass skirts loaned by a dusky hula mailed – but arrive he will – and whatever his costume, he’ll get a real Hawaiian welcome. And that means leis, music and hulas and much aloha. Lucky Santa!

It is hard to imagine Christmas in a land of sunshine, palms and tropical flowers. But one Christmas season spent here changes one’s mind about that wikiwiki. Nature outdoes herself in decorating the islands for the holidays. Thousands of poinsettias of the brightest red bloom everywhere. No the hot-house variety, struggling along in a flower pot, but growing naturally on bushes ten of twelve feet high. On many a bush one can count over a hundred big red flowers. It’s a picture I really wish you could see! Then there is the Hawaiian holly – no stickers – but shiny green leaves with myriads of tiny red berries. Most every home bids you “Komo mai nou ka hale!” with a beautiful wreath of these Christmasy greens bedecked with clusters of berries. 

It may seem odd that in this melting pot of nationalities the Christmas spirit can invade the hearts of all. But it does – it makes no difference to the kids of Hawaii if the department store Santa Claus is Hawaiian, Chinese, or haole (white). Santa’s whiskers cover a multitude of things! And the grown-ups, just like the kids, find that Christmas warms their hearts towards their friends of every nationality. The Chinese drink to the Hawaiians, the Hawaiians drink to the haoles, and and the haoles drink to them all. But Christmas or not, it’s really wonderful how well we all get along here in Hawaii.

It remains to be seen whether there will be Christmas trees for all or not. But no pilikia (trouble); a gaily decorated palm tree gives any evergreen a run for its money. Last year, palm trees, kiawes, sugar cane and what-have-you, were called upon to double for Christmas trees with surprising success. This year they might even try outdoor trees.

We’re happy to know that this year brings us plenty of “liquid sunshine” to help promote the Christmas spirit. There will no doubt be plenty of elbow bending going on and many a toast to “Bombs over Tokyo and Berlin” will be heard. I might propose a toast or two myself just for sociability. “Okole maluna” means “bottoms up” and “okole maluna” and welakahao it will be in Hawaii.

Thinking of you at Christmas even in tropical Hawaii brings to mind a favorite Southern jingle, “An’ even Christmas ain’t so hot, when ah is at where you is not!” But since I can’t be where you are to give you my Christmas aloha in person, I only wish I could send you some real Hawaiian atmosphere – such a bundle of tropical moonlight, a blue, blue wave with perhaps a beach boy surfing to shore upon it, a hula maiden bedecked with leis of gardenias, an Hawaiian breeze carrying the aloha of tropical flowers, or a huge arm-load of leis with every flower saving its fragrance just for you. That, I know, should make your Christmas day complete. 

But until the air-lines and the ships in the Pacific give priorities to such things, I’m afraid I must content myself with saying once more, “Mele Kalikimaka” and “Maka Hiki Hou.” 

ALOHA NUI LOA!


From the personal scrapbook of Lt. Hubert B. Braden.

Want to see more from Lt. Braden’s scrapbook? Click here.


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